NEW YORK, Feb 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Apparel
giant VF Corp, the company behind such popular brands as
Wrangler jeans and Timberland boots, is adopting sourcing
policies to eliminate products that contribute to deforestation
and human rights violations, it said on Monday.
The new policies, which affect its sources of wood pulp,
come amid strong demand for performance wear that uses
wood-based rayon and viscose fabrics, said Letitia Webster, VF
vice president of global corporate sustainability.
VF is the latest in a growing number of apparel companies to
commit to investigate its supply chain for products from
destructive regions and stop using those sources by the end of
"What we're trying to do is one, the right thing, but two,
as one of the largest apparel and footwear companies in the
world, we're also trying to help lead and really help create
demand for more sustainably, responsibly sourced materials,"
Webster told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"When we actually move our sourcing in that direction, it is
a big market signal that we want that type of product," she
said. "If the consumer finds out that VF is doing this, then
that's great. That's icing on the cake."
VF said it aims to eliminate sources of products that
contribute to the loss of ancient and endangered forests or
rights taken from indigenous people and local communities. The
initiative affects sourcing of fabrics and of paper,
particularly that is used in packaging.
Along with Timberland and Wrangler, other VF brands include
The North Face, which makes well-known outerwear, Lee jeans
maker, Vans shoes and Nautica fashions. VF reported 2016
revenues of $12 billion.
The North Face in particular makes a lot of performance
products, such as athletic wear, Webster said.
"When a player as big as VF steps forward on these kinds of
issues, suppliers take notice and so do governments," said
Nicole Rycroft, executive director of Canopy, an environmental
non-profit that worked with VF on its sourcing guidelines.
"They're sending the signal that customers and companies
expect sustainable fiber that's clear of conflict and ecological
risk," Rycroft told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Production of wood pulp can involve clearing forests to
build eucalyptus or acacia plantations and taking land
traditionally used by indigenous communities, campaigners say.
"Traditional communities or indigenous communities not being
adequately consulted or having free, prior informed consent over
their lands being developed for paper products, for pulp that
feeds into the fashion industry, is fairly widespread," said
The issue of deforestation is particularly acute in
Indonesia, a major producer of wood pulp, and in colder climates
where old-growth forests are logged for pulp milled for fabric
"There's 120 million trees that disappear into clothing
every year, into rayon and viscose. A significant amount of that
comes from endangered forest landscape," Rycroft said.
Demand for rayon and viscose has increased, she said, from
five years ago when an estimated 70 million trees went into the
Rayon, sometimes called the poor man's silk, is inexpensive
and flexible, adding to its popularity, she said.
Companies that recently have adopted similar policies toward
sourcing of wood-based products include L Brands, parent
of Victoria's Secret, Ralph Lauren, H&M, Zara, Levi
Strauss & Co and British fashion designer Stella
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Ros Russell; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.